Oral cancer screening

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Why us?

Service description

Oral cancer screening is an examination performed by our dentist  to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth.

The goal of oral cancer screening is to identify mouth cancer early, when there is a greater chance for a cure.

Our dentists perform an examination of your mouth during a routine dental visit to screen for oral cancer. Some times we may use additional tests to aid in identifying areas of abnormal cells in your mouth.

What you can expect

An oral cancer screening consists of two parts: a visual examination and a physical examination of the gums, palate, soft tissue and tongue. Examining the face, neck, lips and inside of the nose are other big parts of oral cancer screenings. Before the screening, the patient must remove all oral appliances, such as dentures and retainers. This helps to expose every possible area in the mouth that may be prone to oral cancer.

First, our dentist will look for asymmetries. Any swelling, bumps, lumps, white patches, sores, rough patches and other abnormalities will be examined, as well. We will use a small light and mirror to look inside the nose and mouth. Using a tongue depressor, than we will examine the back of the throat.

In the physical exam, we the dentist will touch the head and cheeks around the jaw, under the chin and inside the oral cavity. We will be looking for anything out of the ordinary. Unusual nodules or masses will be noted, and may need further examination.

One sign of oral cancer that is widely unknown is the inability to move normally mobile tissue. These spots usually cause pain when pressure is applied as well. However, not all cancerous areas will be painful.

In addition to a visual and physical exam, certain technological tools may be used. Oral cancer screening devices such as the VELscope can help the dentist to identify precancerous cells that are invisible to the naked eye. This device shines a safe blue light into the oral cavity. Normal tissue will illuminate, while precancerous or cancerous spots will remain dark.

If we  does find an abnormality during an oral cancer screening, a sample will likely be taken of the cells in question and sent out to the lab for a biopsy. Although oral cancer screenings can alert the dentist to possible problem areas, diagnosing the disease is much more involved.

What are the benefits of early diagnosis

Early detection is crucial in saving lives. If you have a family history of oral cancer or participate in certain habits such as tobacco use or excessive alcohol intake, you may be at a higher risk for developing oral cancer. If this is the case, you should request oral cancer screenings every four months.


Oral exams for oral cancer screening have some limitations, such as:

  • Oral cancer screening could lead to additional tests. Many people have sores in their mouths, with the great majority of these sores being noncancerous. An oral exam can’t determine which sores are cancerous and which are not.

    If our dentist finds an unusual sore, you may go through further testing to determine its cause. The only way to definitively determine whether you have oral cancer is to remove some abnormal cells and test them for cancer with a procedure called a biopsy.

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Answers to questions

How often do I need an oral cancer screening?

Typically, our dentist will perform an oral cancer screening as part of your twice-yearly routine dental exam. If you have multiple risk factors for oral cancer or have had cancerous lesions in the past, our dentist may recommend that you have screenings more frequently. Smoking is one of the most significant oral cancer risk factors, so if you are a smoker, our dentist may want to examine you more often than twice a year.

Are oral cancer screenings painful?

Oral cancer screenings involve our dentist doing a visual examinationof the tissue in and around your mouth. The test is completely painless. If our dentist is concerned about anything we sees, you may need to have the tissue biopsied. our dentist may perform this test in the clinic or refer you to another specialist for the biopsy. During a biopsy, a small amount of tissue is removed for further examination. If you need a biopsy, a local anesthetic can be used so that it is completely painless.

What are the warning signs of oral cancer?
  • Red or white patches in or behind the mouth
  • Mouth sores or ulcers that bleed easily and do not heal
  • Unexplained lump in the neck, throat or floor of the mouth
  • Difficulty or discomfort swallowing
  • Pain and tenderness in teeth or gums
  • Change in the fit of dentures or partial dentures
  • Visible change in mouth tissue
  • Unpleasant sensations (pain, discomfort, numbness)
  • Diminished ability to perform normal functions such as opening jaw, chewing or swallowing
  • Unexplained swelling or fullness in neck
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